A few years ago, there was one Mr. Ameer, who showed us how a gang-raped woman can be cut into pieces in his super-hit film Paruthiveeran. Then came Mr. Sasikumar with his Subramaniapuram to show how exactly a man’s head can be cut inside a moving auto-rickshaw. Then Mr. Bala decided that it was time to make the Tamil audience cry with the beating up of a handicapped woman. (Obviously, he was encouraged when his video tutorials on how to bite a man’s throat earned the hero a national award.) Mr. Vasantha Balan too decided to join the bandwagon and made his presence felt with the sorrow and sexual abuse of women workers in his Angadi Theru. His earlier film Veyyil was critically acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of a loser’s life.
All this is of course healthy for Tamil cinema, analysts say. After all, movies are moving closer to reality and are beginning to have that naturalistic, “raw” feel. The audience is crying for logic and believability. “We must be able to relate to the characters! They must be real!” would be the spontaneous request of any avid film-fan. And the film-makers are merely catering to that request.
But what exactly is this realism in cinema? Is realism merely portraying sorrow, defeat, blood and gore? Why is there an opinion that a movie is realistic only if some woman is beaten up or a guy fails miserably in his life?
An incident could be quoted here to answer the above questions. Mr. Sasikumar, the director of Subramaniapuram, was asked in an interview, “Sir, why was there so much violence in your film?”. The answer he gave was : “We only mirror the society. We do not show something that does not happen in everyday life. We read about such violent incidents in the newspapers everyday, don’t we?”
An extremely defensive answer.
It is possible to question as to why the director only chooses depressing incidents from newspapers to make films. Why did Balaji Sakthivel choose to make Kaadhal from a sad tale recounted by a nameless co-passenger on a train? Why did he choose the burning of the bus as the climax for Kalloori?
“Mr. Balaji Sakthivel, don’t you read articles about Viswanathan Anand winning one title after another? Why not make a film of that?” could be an interviewer’s question. “I mean that is also a realistic incident right?”
But, Balaji Sakthivel and Co., could hide behind the cinematic-freedom argument. “Oh come on! It is the freedom of the director to choose the subjects that he wishes to handle.” would be their reply.
But, even though the film-maker does possess the freedom to express his thoughts and stories, does he not possess a moral responsibility for the effect his film has on the audience? Arguing that a film does not influence the way people behave is completely irrational. A film like Anbe Sivam is capable of radically changing the way a person views religion and god. A film like Abhiyum Naanum can make a father think twice before he scolds his daughter. In the same way, films like Veyyil, Kaadhal and Paruthiveeran could convince an already depressed person that the world is a cruel place. A film like Subramaniapuram or Renigunta could make jobless village lads think it is perfectly fine to stay the way they are.
By bringing these stray incidents of violence onto the silver screen, the film directors are merely publicizing a sensational news. It would not be very wrong to compare it to the noise with which Kungumam magazines are advertised on the television. It also seems to be a very cheap manipulation of the audience’s sentiments. You show them something that would make them draw out their handkerchiefs and claim that you’ve made a deep impact. You claim that you did it so that someone somewhere does something to change the current situation. But, you happily attend interviews and enjoy the limelight and profits that your film brings.
What hurts even more is the fact that the audience have also come to believe that real life and reality means nothing but defeat and sorrow. Think about it. If I were to ask you to list the recent realistic Tamil films, would Mozhi or Pasanga or Yaaradi Nee Mohini top your list? Would they even feature in your list?
However, this does not mean that fun movies where all ends well should become the order of the day. It does not mean that Tamil cinema should only have bubbly Genelias jumping all over the screen. It just means that it would be nice if the directors realize that there is also happiness and hope in real life. Reality does not mean that the protagonist has to lose. There are winners in real life. Narrating a loser’s depressing story with the excuse of making a realistic movie, is a highly selfish and manipulative act.